Thursday, January 31, 2008

Back on track, and the Ray of Hope Appeal

Having spent much of the last few days in Belgium, I've only seen highlights of our double-triumph over the barcodes.

It's nice to get back on track, and also good to see players like Cesc and Flamini scoring. The Flamster is, apparently, near to signing a new deal, so hopefully his long-term future is at the club. He and Adebayor have been revelations this season, and we both need them to stick around.

Anyway, the main reason for posting is this: The Ray of Hope Appeal. Ray Kennedy was an integral part of our 70-71 double winning side - scoring the winner at WHL to secure us the league. He went on to even greater success at Liverpool, and it's their fans who are running the campaign, which is fully explained below. In short, if you're in a rush, Ray has, and has had for some time, Parkinson's disease. It's an extremely nasty disease, and he has no real source of income. The campaign therefore seeks to raise as much money to help Ray out as possible.

***Ray Of Hope Appeal - Appeal Launch - Please Read***


Over the last few months, the idea for a Ray Kennedy fund raising appeal has gathered momentum. It's taken a significant amount of time and effort to get everything lined up but we're now ready to hit the "go" button and launch the appeal properly. This post is by way of introduction to the campaign, explaining who we are, and outlining our aims and projects. This message is getting posted on a number of Liverpool and Arsenal message boards. Where possible, we would be grateful if the board moderators could make this a "sticky" at the top so that as many people read this as possible.

We are hoping both that Liverpool and Arsenal fans support the appeal - although it's Liverpool fans who have driven the appeal up to this point, we have had an extremely positive reception from Arsenal websites and Arsenal FC, both of whom are keen to be involved. This certainly isn't intended to be a partisan exercise, and is not generic to one group of fans or website or forum - this is about Ray and no-one else. Instead, we'd respectfully ask that you take the time to read this post and if you'd like to help, please do. Ten minutes of your time or 10 quid of your money for the man who scored the crucial goal at Munich in 81 or the title winner at White Hart Lane as part of a double season isn't too much to ask.

The appeal started out of a chance conversation between our very own Karl Coppack and Ray Kennedy's doctor just under two years ago. Ray is Karl's all-time favourite Red and it has always vexed Karl that there had been no update on Ray's condition since the publication of his autobiography 15-odd years previous. Karl emailed the good doctor just asking how Ray was, not really expecting a reply. He certainly didn't expect Ray to give him a call, but that's what happened. Over the next few months, Karl stayed in touch with Ray, and it transpired that Ray isn't keeping too well at all. We wish to respect Ray's privacy, and as a result don't want to give chapter and verse on his condition. Parkinsons Disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, characterised by muscle rigidity, tremor, and in extreme cases, a loss of physical movement. Doubly sad when it afflicts a once great athlete. We'll leave it there.

What are our targets? Well, simply as much money for Ray as we can raise within the next 12 months. Sorry to be blunt, but Ray needs financial help to get by. He has not had any significant income since his testimonial in 1991 and had to sell his valued medals in 1993. Your donations will help make Ray's day to day life as comfortable as possible, and will assist with his domestic, financial and medical needs. We have been granted permission by the Parkinson's disease society to fund raise under their banner (this is for, amongst other things, legal and financial purposes). This means that 10% of all monies raised will go to the PDS, with the balance being held on trust for Ray.

The strands of the appeal agreed to date are as follows:

- Paypal account set up for online donations – please pay all donations to Alternatively, please pay direct contributions to the Ray of Hope Appeal c/o HSBC account 21817299 sort-code 40-03-27. Paying direct or doing a bank transfer will avoid paypal commission. We will be maintaining an email circulation list to keep everyone updated on a quarterly basis as to the funds held.

- Ray of Hope Appeal launch night at Anfield after the Middlesbrough game on February 23rd, supported by Reclaim the Kop. This will take place in one of the suites in the Centenary Stand, and will include live music, ex-players, an auction and a raffle. This promises to be a great evening so please keep an eye on for details of how to purchase tickets in the next few weeks.

- Collecton buckets at Anfield pubs. The Hillsborough Justice Campaign have kindly offered to provide us with their closed collection buckets which will be distributed at pubs around the ground at a match in the next few months. If you see one of these buckets before the match, please have one less pint or don't buy the programme, and instead throw a few quid in.

- 92 ground car dash around the Emirates game in April. This does what it says on the tin. We are writing to every club in the football league requesting support for Ray, and will be touring each ground in the space of 5 days to hopefully collect donations and memorabilia which we can then auction off to help Ray in the following months and through to next Christmas. The intention is to support the tour with local newspaper coverage and sponsorship via the site. Again, more to follow over the next few months.

- Tales from the Travelling Kop. Being released to coincide with the official start of Liverpool's coronation as European Captial of Culture, Tales From The Travelling Kop is a compilation of supporters' experiences at Liverpool away games over the past four decades. Available from the Walton Breck Road website on Saturday 12th January 2008 with all proceeds from the sale of the book going to the Parkinson's Disease Society and the Ray of Hope Appeal, set up to help former Red Ray Kennedy who is battling Parkinson's. Tales From The Travelling Kop costs £18 and is a must for any Red.

- Liverpool/Arsenal fanzine game on the day of the Emirates match in April.

- End of season fundraiser at the Olympia after the Man City game on the 2nd May. The intention is that this is to be purely a fans' night. Again, please keep an eye on the boards for details of how to purchase tickets in the next few months.

- The HJC shop are selling Ray shirts at just £12 a pop. It' be great to see some of these on match days to keep the Appeal noticeable. The money there would also go to a great cause.

Many thanks to everyone who has helped so far, especially the Liverpool New York Supporters Club (for their generous donation), Matt Richards (for designing the appeal logo), RTK, and the Parkinsons Disease Society and Hillsborough Justice Campaign for their support and assistance with the logistics of it all.

Finally – one housekeeping point – as we are fund raising under the Parkinsons Disease Society's banner, any events must be done with our endorsement. If people want to help in their own way (for example, a supporter's club organising something), then that is great – but please, please contact us and keep us in the loop before you start anything up or post anything in relation to the campaign elsewhere – everything needs to go through us centrally.

We welcome all comments, enquiries, suggestions and feedback to

Thank you

The Ray of Hope Appeal

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Bite your lip, suck it up, and hold your head up high.

Have a hard look at that image. Can you remember when and where it occured? I can: it was when we won the league at White Hart lane. Just to summarise, when have Spuds ever won the league at our ground? Hmm. Never I think is the answer. And this is the first point to remember: '61, never again'. Spuds have not won the league since 1961. In fact, they have not won a major competition since their FA Cup win in 1991 ( is the Carling Cup even a major competition? That's my argument.). A little ammunition for you all to have at work tomorrow.

The game itself was a massacre, but not an entirely unpredicted one. The Spuds dominated us so much in the first leg that they could have run away with a similar scoreline in that game. Our defence appears to have floated away into the ether. It would be easy to blame Hoyte and Traore, but at least Hoyte showed he cared. Gallas, almost inexplicably, appeared to be the weaker link on several occasions, and this should be remembered before we lay into the young guns too much.

We were poor overall, but suffered from the stretching from the game due to the early goal. Normally on these occasions, an early Spurs goal is de rigeur. We often use it as the basis for our heroic comeback. Malheuresement, on this occasion, it merely opened the floodgates.

Whenever we receive a thrashing, it's easy to throw the blame around. And certainly, questions need to be asked after this game. But of all the players on the field today, none, inherently, looked unfit to wear the shirt. Only Theo, Hoyte, Traore, Diaby and Denilson remain questionable, in the long-term. For the rest, it may just have been one of those days. Even Nicklas Bendtner, who appeared to take on William Gallas in the closing stages, is good enough to play for Arsenal. He merely had a poor game today. The test of character in football, as in life, is not whether you fail, but how you react to failure. I have high hopes for many of the boys on the field today. Don't give up on them yet.

Due to my current work situation, I watched the game in deepest Scotland today. I kept my head up high, and ignored the occasional, idiotic barbs from the Spud's fans.

Yet when the fifth goal went in, my head sunk between my knees. And it was then that a Arsenal fan sitting next to me, one with a broad cockney accent gave me the following advice:

'Hold your head up son; let them have their fun. We have class. We're the better club.'

Don't forget that. Every dog has its day. A nine year streak must eventually end.

But, ultimately, I'd rather be a Gooner.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Congratulations Lassana Diarra: you are an idiot.

It's hard to know what to make of this whole Diarra business in some ways. Maybe he has a point after all; maybe, regardless of the form of other players, Diarra should have swanned into the first XI. After all, promises were made to him when he signed for the club. I wonder what other promises were made? Free happy-meals after every game? As much time on his xbox as he likes? Bi-weekly trips to Euro Disney? Because I'm pretty sure Arsene would not make the promise to any signing that, regardless of how other players are doing, a new signing will get unlimited first team playing time. I should imagine that Arsene said he'd give him a fair chance, which he has.

So, really, the conclusion one has to draw is that Diarra is an idiot. Not willing to stay and prove himself at Chelsea, he's waited precisely three months to declare that we are not worthy of him. His imperator-esque abilities demand playing time, and he will not be fobbed off. (at least in his own mind.)

His avowed reason is that he's worried about his place in the French squad for the European championships; but given he's been in the French squad for some time now, even with limited playing time at us and Chelsea, it seems unlikely that Domenech is suddenly going to decide to drop him, is it? And even if he was not to make the squad for the next championships, he's only 22: he has ten years of international playing days in front of him. Surely it's better to establish himself at a top-four club first before looking to the international team?

And this is the crux of the matter. If he had stayed at Arsenal, he would have, in all likelihood, been first choice by the beginning of next season. Gilberto looks set to leave in the summer, Flamini is stalling over a contract, and Diaby and Denilson still look way off the pace. Even if Flamini does stay, Diarra could have given him a proper ride for the first team, if he'd been willing to stay and fight for his place.

But he isn't. And as Arseblogger has said, do we really want players who give up at the first sign of difficulty?

Moreover, in the interview with L'Equipe, Diarra is already talking about Pompey obviously not being the club he'll stay with for the rest of his career, and that he sees the team as a stepping stone to a bigger club. Again: what an idiot. Denigrate the club you've literally just signed for; a team which actually has quite a few central midfield options in Mendes, Diop, Utaka, Davis etc. Who's to say he won't soon be whining again for a move?

Arsene once said that the last stage in the development of a player was 'mental'. A player had to put the right 'mental roof' on top of his physical abilities to become a complete player. It seems that Diarra's roof, if he ever had one, was blown off a long time ago. Either that, or he's the victim of unscrupulous agents. But even agents, as the Ashley Cole affair shows, have to have a pretty arrogant client to achieve transfers of this type.

So, despite the fact he had a few decent games for us, don't lose any sleep over this one. We've made £3.5m, Arsene will buy a new central midfielder, or promote youngsters as he sees fit, and we've got rid of an idiot. All the best Lassana.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Arsenal scrape a draw; Diarra and Jens remain in limbo.

You have to start wondering what it’s going to take for the Spuds to beat us. The last few occasions we’ve played, they’ve had the chances and the momentum to win matches, yet they just can’t seem to go that extra step and actually get the result.

If I was one of their supporters, I’d be somehow between frustration and despair. It doesn’t help when their best player, Berbatov, does his best impression of s sulky Thierry Henry; moments of brilliance interspersed with a distinctly casual, couldn’t care less attitude, even if, of course, Thierry was better.

So we got away with it on Wednesday. Just as I was given a last minute reprieve due to the delayed kick off – don’t even start me on Transport ‘For’ London (they’re transport ‘for’ some fat cat's back pocket if they're transport for anything) – so Theo popped up at the last minute, scuffed his shot, and watched as the spuds actually hit the ball against him in order to make sure we got an equaliser.

The overall performance was poor. Djourou was abysmal, Senderos not much better, and their partnership was non-existent. Hoyte can’t be faulted for effort, but struggled at times, while Traore was not only put on his arse by lennon at least once, he also conjured up a gloriously inept freekick.

Theo made some nice runs, and at least showed the confidence to take on players, yet failed to release the ball early enough, as either a shot or pass, to be a real threat. Denilson was functionary without really answering the question about whether he can be a playmaking central-midfielder, while Gilberto defended well yet passed abysmally.

Diaby was infuriating. His persistent attempts to dribble past the entire Spuds team were almost entirely unsuccessful and led to us ceding possession in dangerous areas. For all that, he was still our best midfielder.

The only players to really cover themselves, individually, in any glory, were a generally solid Fabianski, a spiky and creative Bendtner, a livewire Eduardo, and Sagna, who surely earned himself our motm award with his running, tackling and all-round play.

Yet we still drew, and that’s the most important thing ultimately - going to the Lane, we still have a chance of getting a result. Whether the XI that went out on Wednesday are the one’s to pull it off remains to be seen. It would be disappointing to go out at this stage, especially to the spuds, as Arsene needs a trophy. The carling cup would be a nice hors d’oeuvre to greater things later in the season.

The major absentee from Wednesday’s match was Diarra, who seems to be getting sillier and sillier by the day. According to the latest reports, he dropped himself for the match, saying he wasn’t in the right frame of mind to play, given the speculation surrounding him.

Now, Diarra will go to Euro 2008, regardless of whether he’s first XI with us by that point. The only question is whether, in the future, he will develop into a first XI player, and to my mind he probably will. He looks a cut above Denilson and Diaby, and, with Gilberto potentially leaving in the summer, it could turn into a scrap between him and Flamini for the 2nd central midfield spot. He could win, if he’s willing to work for it. If he’s not: cheerio.

Jens also now appears to be staying, after failing to agree personal terms with Dortmund. It’d be nice for him to stay, but I doubt whether he’ll accept being second string for the rest of the season. Arsene confirmed my earlier thoughts when he stated that he wouldn’t buy a new keeper if Jens leaves; Fabianski will become number two, with Mannone at three.

So, it’s on to Birmingham tomorrow. A game we should win, even if we only appear to have one fit centre-back at present…

Sunday, January 06, 2008

A comfortable win at Burnley and the transfer window opens.

Firstly, a very happy new year to you all.

And a happy new year it has been so far for Arsenal, with two comfortable two-nil wins.

I did, somehow, make it the West Ham match, despite my exertions on New Years Eve, and was presented by a game that was over almost before it had begun. Eduardo continued to clinically finish almost every chance floated towards him by slotting home early in the game, and Adebayor wrapped things up with a finish from an extremely tight angle. After that, we played out the rest of the seventy minutes with an almost zen-like calm. West Ham looked like they'd been out the night before as well, given the soporific nature of their effort.

Today's game was a little closer, with Burnley certainly having their chances. Yet Eduardo took his first real chance wonderfully and we were, really, pretty comfortable after that. The sending off ending any form of contest, and Bendtner put the icing on the cake with a cool finish from a lovely Eduardo pass.

The way Eduardo has stood up and started hitting form in the last few weeks has been wonderful. It does take at least three months for foreign players to find their feet in the PL, but I think we're now starting to see the player that Arsene was excited about. With RvP seemingly out indefinitely, it's essential we have a clinical goalscorer to bolster the campaign we're making on four different fronts at the moment.

For a club that's top of the league, it's unsurprising that we haven't really been linked with anyone. It seems that we may have signed another child prodigy - Luke Freeman from Gillingham - and also that Bulgarian triallist Dimitriov may get a contract. If we are to make a signing, it probably will come from nowhere. Arsene and Arsenal operate way under the radar when it comes to the transfer market - remember the signing of Eduardo? - so I'm not holding my breath. The players we have are good enough to win any of the four competitions we're currently in; if they have the stamina. We have the ability; whether we have the legs to maintain a challenge on four fronts may be the issue.

In fact, somewhat surprisingly, the real speculation surrounding the club at the moment regards players who may be trying to leave.

Jens, who has reportedly turned down a contract offer from Dortmund, may or may not have played his last game for the club. It doesn't appear that Arsene will stand in the way if he wants to leave, and with the European Championships coming up, he needs first team matches. I would be surprised if he does stay past the end of January, even if it pains me to say it.

Lassana Diarra has also not quite cottoned onto the concept of having to earn a first team place before you are picked in said team. Arsene doesn't keep unhappy players, so if the right bid comes in he could well be off. As Arseblogger pointed out, if he's this quick to give up off the field, is he really going to have his back to the wall when the going gets tough on the field? He should stay and learn, but if he's hell bent on a move, let him go. Newcastle, Everton and, the Spuds have all signalled interest.

So a good start to the year, even if a difficult January without Kolo and Eboue awaits. The game on Wednesday will be the Spuds biggest of the season, and this could be the moment they upset us. I say may; if they can't beat our youth team with a 2-0 lead, or after we've gifted them a penalty, you have to wonder when the next time they'll beat us will be...